HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Cocktails to go stopped when the governor’s disaster declaration ended and the last chance to save it before the legislature’s summer break has come and gone.
Industry leaders are disappointed that they’ll be losing out on summer sales, but there are some steps restaurants can take to expand seating, for instance.
The ability to sell cocktails to go has been a lifeline for businesses during the pandemic.
“Polling shows that 35% of people are more likely to get food to go if they can get a cocktail with it, so it encourages people to get takeout which is going to be a key part of our industry moving forward and to go cocktails are a huge part of that,” Melissa Bova, vice president of government affairs with the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, said
But when the disaster declaration ended the carryout drinks stopped flowing.
“Our industry was mitigated for about 15 months. We’re not going to recover in two or three months,” Bova said. “We need time to dig out of the hole that were put into as we went through COVID.”
The state Senate narrowly passed a bill last week to allow cocktails to-go permanently but also had a controversial provision to sell mixed drinks in cans at retail outlets, like gas stations and beer distributors.
The House passed the bill overwhelmingly and stripped out that new provision.
“Very clearly your small business taverns and licensed restaurants, they’re stuck in the middle of a much bigger debate and it’s unfair, especially after the last 15 months that they’ve had,” Chuck Moran, executive director of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association, said.
As for outdoor alcohol sales, the Pennsylvania liquor control board voted this week to allow bars and restaurants to apply for temporary permits, but those will be on a case-by-case basis.
And it won’t ease the dismay firmly pointed towards the capitol.
“We’re disappointed that it appears that they’re not going to act on this and that they’re going to wait until the fall, losing an entire summer season for an industry that’s trying to recover,” Moran said.
Moran says about 66% of the revenue from his members come from alcohol sales.